Yummy Gingerbread Men and Failed Gingerbread Houses

January 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

This was our second year with an unintentionally Florida themes gingerbread house. The first year I didn’t use a template, because it’s just a house right? Stick 6 squares together and that’s that. You have yourself a gingerbread house. It’s gotta be easy because on the television children do it.

So. Yeah. Not so much.

Not a single wall stood. It was a royal icing covered mess. We said that Hurricane Wilma hit the house.

This year I followed a lovely template from Martha Stewart. I printed it out. I followed the lines with a pizza cutter. It looked gorgeous in my cookie pan. After baking, we begin to put it together and all four walls stand! But there was a problem. Every time we put the roof on it fell apart. Once, we put one side of the roof on, but never both sides. This time it was Hurricane Katrina, because when it passed though Florida it mostly only damaged people’s roofs.

How do you guys get your gingerbread houses so perfect? I always seem to cause some distortion that leads to disaster!

Anyway, the gingerbread was still delicious, even if it couldn’t stand up architecturally.

My recipe was inspired by So Good and Tasty’s cookies.

Oven Temp: 350 degrees
Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses

Directions

  1. Mix flour, baking soda, cocoa, ginger, clove, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and pepper in one bowl
  2. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time and cream after each.
  4. Add molasses and mix until completely distributed.
  5. Add dry mixture to wet mixture a bit at a time. Mix until combined, careful not to over mix.
  6. Roll dough into a ball and let cool in the fridge 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
  7. Remove chilled dough and divide into two pieces.
  8. Roll out dough as in Sugar Cookie recipe , to 1/8th inch thickness.
  9. Cook 10-12 minutes.
  10. Decorate with powdered sugar or Royal Icing.

 

Making and Decorating with Royal Icing

January 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Royal icing is a bit more complicated than making sugar cookies, even though it seems the most simple thing. Sugar, water, and some kind of egg product are all you need. I use merengue powder because I don’t trust my odds against catching salmonella, but you can also use egg whites, pasteurized eggs (Did you know this existed? I did not.), or egg powder.

The keys to a good royal icing are A) the proportion of these basic ingredients, B) their quality (for merengue powder I recommend Ateco), and C) whipping.

For a great tutorial with lost of pictures, see Bake at 350‘s post.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup merengue powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • Dash of Almond extract

Directions

  1. Combine merengue powder and nearly all of the water
  2. Beat until peaks begin to form
  3. Add powdered sugar. You are going to a whipping for a long time if you are not fortunate enough to have a stand mixer. At first it will look like sludge, but keep going. Then it will look like honey, keep going. Then it will lighten and begin to look like frosting, but keep going because you are still not done. You are done when you remove the beater and the frosting does not budge an inch as you move it around!
  4. Add extract and beat a bit more.

Coloring

I use such still icing because I use liquid food coloring. If you use gel food coloring it isn’t such an issue since it wont water the icing down, but the all-natural coloring I use only comes in liquid form. Be careful with these because they can make your icing too liquid-y and runny to work with. In order to avoid this, add the coloring a drop at a time. Your spatula should always be able to stand up on its own in your icing.

Storing

You can store the icing for immediate use in a container with a damp kitchen cloth covering it with a lid on top. For longer periods, store in the fridge in Tupperware with damp napkins inside. To keep the tips of piping bags from going hard while working, place the bags in cups with damp paper towels at the bottom.

Happy icing!

 

The Best Sugar Cookies

January 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

Sugar cookies are the most basic cookies that you can make. You probably have all the ingredients in your cupboard already, and there are no fancy techniques required. You can, however, step them up a notch with a bit of flavored extract and royal icing.

I used to hate sugar cookies. Unlike most little children i didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I missed out on the sugary delights of a lot of “kids” snacks back in the days before organic fruit gummies and dehydrated fruit rolls. Actually, I was a member of the “kid’s club” at Publix (a large supermarket chain in South Florida) when I was younger, which meant that I could get a free sugar cookie if I showed my members card to the employees at the bakery. Eventually, the lady at the bakery realized I wasn’t too excited about my free cookie and she let me choose a less cavity inducing option.

These cookies, though, taste great even with an extra dollop of sugary royal icing on top. I can’t take the praise for their deliciousness though since I took the recipe from i am baker and didn’t change a thing.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup Butter
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 4 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons Almond Extract
  • 4 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder

Oven Temperature: 350 degrees
Yield: A crazy amount of cookies.

Directions

  1. Cream sugar and butter until;l light and fluffy. Make sure to turn the mixture with a spatula and check for chunks of sugar or butter. This is a lot of butter, and it is easy to miss these things.
  2. Add eggs and egg yolks, one at a time. Mix until combined.
  3. Add vanilla and almond extract. Mix until combined.
  4. In a second bowl mix flour, salt, and baking powder.
  5. Slowly add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix to combine. Try not to mix too much, so as not to toughen the cookies.
  6. Roll dough into a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  7. Cut dough ball into four sections. You will work with one section at a time so the butter in the dough won’t melt.
  8. Slowly and gently roll out your dough(I like my cookies thin and crisp ), turning it 90 degrees every few rolls to achieve an even layer. Add as little flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking or use wax paper between the rolling surface and rolling pin. These cookies are so simple that you probably wouldn’t notice the extra flour though.
  9. Cut out cookies. You can put the scraps back into the fridge to cool and roll them out after all four sections have been cut, giving them time to re-cool.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

Enjoy these cookies with a bit of beautiful royal icing on top and a tall glass of milk!


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